universities could go out of business if the government limits the number of foreign students in an effort to curb net migration, an immigration policy adviser warned.
Rishi Sunak’s possible plan to crack down on international students who earn “low-quality” degrees could “win over many universities,” particularly in poorer regions, said the chair of the Migration Advisory Committee of the government.
If you’re interested in the leveling agenda, you might want to worry about harming universities across Britain
Professor Brian Bell told TUSEN Radio 4’s Today programme: “Most universities lose money teaching British students for most courses and make up for that loss by charging more for international students.
“If you close the international route, I don’t know how the university will survive.”
He said London, Cambridge and Oxford would do well if foreign students only got places at “elite” universities, and asked: “But what about Newcastle, what about the North East, the North West, Scotland? “
“If you’re interested in the leveling agenda, you might want to worry about harming universities across Britain,” the King’s College economics professor added.
He pointed out that it was not just an immigration policy, but an education policy as it could lead to a “massive increase” in UK students’ tuition fees to make up for the loss of overseas student payments.
The prime minister is considering cracking down on international students who bring dependent children and restricting access to top universities, Downing Street said on Thursday after net migration to the UK rose to a record half a million.
His official spokesman insisted Mr Sunak was “fully committed” to bringing down overall immigration levels and blamed “unprecedented and unique circumstances” for the record high.
The official said: “We are considering all options to ensure that the immigration system works, and that includes looking at the issue of dependent students and low-quality degrees.”
This would be in line with proposals being explored by Interior Secretary Suella Braverman, who previously complained about foreign students “bringing in family members who can piggyback on their student visas” and “supporting frankly substandard courses in inadequate institutions.”
Bell said limiting the number of family members students can bring to the UK was “well worth looking into”.
“If you are an undergraduate student you are not allowed to bring a dependent, but students who are in masters and PhD programs are allowed to bring a dependent and that has increased from – it used to be very small, about 20,000 visas a year – and it’s down to about 70 or 80,000 now.
“That’s an area where the government might want to think about whether the offer is right … especially for one-year master’s programs, it might be less clear why we should admit dependents.”
It is estimated that in the 12 months to June 2022, around 504,000 more people moved to the UK than left, a sharp increase from 173,000 in the year to June 2021.
The estimates were compiled by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which said the jump was caused by “unique” factors, including visa regulations for Ukrainians and Hong Kong residents, and students arriving from outside the European Union.
According to the ONS, people arriving on study visas accounted for the bulk of the long-term immigration of non-EU nationals, at 277,000 or 39% of the total.